Commonly found in the regions of North America, skullcap herb has been used in traditional medicine since ages. It actually refers to any species of the genus Scutellaria, belonging to the family Labiatae. The genus includes about 300 distinct species, out of which two species, Scutellaria lateriflora and Scutellaria baicalensis, are often used in herbal medicine to treat various ailments. Scutellaria lateriflora, also known as American skullcap, is used as an effective therapy for stress, anxiety and nervous tension. The other species, Scutellaria baicalensis, is known as Chinese skullcap and has been a part of the traditional Chinese medicine for years.
Skullcap is a perennial herb that grows up to a height of 3 feet or more. It is characterized by small, two lobed flowers that are bluish purple to pink in color. The double lobed flowers resemble the skullcaps worn in medieval times and hence the name 'skullcap' herb. This herb is generally taken in the form of skullcap tea or tinctures, however, it is also available in the form of liquid extracts, capsules or as dried herb. Skullcap extraction is normally done using alcohol. The recommended dosage for adults is 2 to 3 ml of the fluid extract or 1 to 2 grams of the dried skullcap herb. It can also be given to children but in small doses.
As I said earlier, skullcap can refer to two different herbs, American skullcap and Chinese skullcap. Both of these herbs have different properties and are used to treat different conditions. American skullcap is used as a mild relaxant and as an effective treatment for conditions like insomnia, fibromyalgia, etc. It is used as an emmenagogue to promote menstrual discharge. It is also effective in reducing muscle spasms and convulsions. Chinese skullcap is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat allergies, infections, headaches and inflammations. It is known to have antifungal and antiviral effects and thus can prevent a number of infections. It helps in reducing symptoms of hypertension and diabetes. Chinese skullcap herb is also known to have some cancer fighting properties, however, studies are still going on to confirm its action.
Although skullcap extract is a natural herbal medicine, there have been cases where people have experienced several adverse effects on consumption of it. Dizziness, drowsiness, irregular heartbeats, seizures, mental confusions and muscle aches are some of the its side effects. One may also experience allergic reactions such as skin rash, hives, swelling of the face, difficulty in breathing and swallowing on taking this herbal supplement. Contamination of this herb extract with other harmful herbs can lead to liver damage and can be fatal. As with other supplements, skullcap herbal extract can also have interactions with other supplements or drugs. Chinese skullcap is known to lower blood glucose level and is not recommended for people with diabetes. Pregnant women should strictly avoid consumption of skullcap herb in any manner as it can cause negative effects on the fetus.
This was all about skullcap benefits and side effects. Despite its several benefits, this herbal supplement should not be taken without consulting the doctor.